Travel agency

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A travel agency is a business that sells travel related products and services to end-user customers on behalf of third party travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels and cruise lines. Customers of travel agencies include tourists and business travellers. Some agencies also serve as general service agents for foreign travel companies in different countries.

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[edit] Purpose

The British Company, Cox & Kings is the oldest travel agent in the world, established in 1758 and Thomas Cook was a notable early, pre-flight pioneer after 1841. Travel agencies have been organized mostly since the development of commercial aviation from the 1920s. Some operate with a chain of stores and others are one store operations. A few of the larger travel agencies sell their own products. Agencies without their own product are arguably more impartial and more likely to offer something to suit the traveller; they are known as independent agencies. there are three different types of agencies: these are Multiples, Miniples and independent agencies.

Most travel agencies do not sell airline tickets only; their services vary, and many of them sell more cruise ship packages than airline tickets. Most travel agencies also arrange car rental deals for their customers, and many concentrate on arranging charter or group trips to different destinations. For this, they deal with regular airlines, but many times, they also hire charter airlines. Many travel agencies exclusively represent a small group of supplier airlines, cruise and car hire companies and, often, the logos of the supplier companies are displayed on the windows of the agency's office.

Travel agencies also market and sell train and hotel products. Generally, their goal is to try to fit an ideal schedule onto the requirements of each specific customer.

The phrase travel agency has changed meaning since the emergence of companies like Thomson or Thomas Cook, who are now considered to be tour operators rather than travel agents. The difference is that tour operators manufacture and sell their own holidays whereas independent travel agents sell holidays from all the tour operators without limiting the range they offer to just their own product. The best travel agents deal honestly with a wide range of customers.

[edit] Organizations

On April 20, 1931, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) was formed in New York City, to defend the rights of US travel agents over the power of the growing commercial airline systems of the day. Now headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, ASTA still represents travel agencies and agents.

The international body for registering travel agents is the International Air Transport Association (IATA), although most travel agents are registered through national bodies such as the Australian Federation of Travel Agents.

[edit] The Internet threat

With the advent of general public access to the internet, many airlines and other travel companies began to sell directly to passengers. As a consequence, airlines no longer needed to pay the commissions to travel agents on each ticket sold. Since 1997, travel agencies gradually became victims of disintermediation, the reduction in costs caused by removing layers from the package holiday distribution network.<ref name="andalancion">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="edmunds">Marian Edmunds. "A wake-up call for the industry: As competition intensifies, online and mobile technologies offer huge opportunities across all sectors of the travel business", Financial Times, March 13, 2002, p. 10.</ref>

Many travel agencies have developed an internet presence by posting a website, with detailed travel information. Full travel booking sites are often complex, and require the assistance of outside travel technology solutions providers such as Travelocity, Patheo and Open Fares. These companies use travel service distribution companies who operate Global Distribution Systems (GDS), such as Sabre Holdings, Amadeus and Worldspan, to provide up to the minute, detailed data on tens of thousands of flight, hotel, and car rental vacancies.

Some of the online travel sites allow visitors to compare hotel and flight rates with multiple companies for free. They often allow visitors to sort the travel packages by amenities, price, and or proximity to a city or landmark.

Travel agents have developed dynamic packaging tools to provide fully bonded (full financial protection) travel at prices equal to or lower than a member of the public can book online. As such, the agencies financial assets are protected in addition to professional travel agency advice.

All online travel sites that sell hotels online work together with numerous outside travel agents. Once the travel site sells a hotel, one of the supplying travel agents is contacted and will try to get a confirmation for this hotel. Once confirmed or not, the customer is contacted with the result. This means, that booking a hotel on a travel website will not get you an instant answer. Only some of the hotels on a travel website can be confirmed instantly (which is normally marked as such on each site). As different travel websites work with different suppliers together, each site has different hotels that it can confirm instantly. Some examples of such online travel websites that sell hotel rooms are Expedia, Travelocity, Tablet Hotels, Tripadvisor, Excelloz or Venere.

[edit] Careers

With the many people switching to self service internet websites, the number of available jobs are decreasing as travel agents. Most jobs that come available are from older travel agents retiring. Counteracting the decrease in jobs due to internet services, is the increase in the number of people traveling. Since 1995, many travel agents have exited the industry, and relatively few young people have entered the field due to less competitive salaries.<ref name="tobin">Rebecca Tobi. "Wanted: young agents! Are young people shying away from careers in travel? Agents and travel school operators say yes. Look around your agency—see any young faces?", Travel Weekly Vol 61, no. 43, 28 October, 2002, p. 148-149.</ref> However, others have abandoned the "brick and mortar" agency for a home-based business to reduce overheads, and those who remain have managed to survive by promoting other travel products such as cruise lines and train excursions, or by promoting their ability to aggressively research and assemble complex travel packages on a moment's notice (essentially acting as a very advanced concierge).

[edit] Cargo

Although not as involved in the cargo business, some travel agencies also work with cargo airlines and ships. Those travel agencies that do cargo business, however, are not a significant number of agencies.

[edit] References

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[edit] See also

bg:Туристическа агенция de:Reisebüro fr:Agence de voyages it:Agenzia turistica nl:Reisbureau nn:Reisebyrå ja:旅行代理店 sv:Resebyrå ru:Турагент

Travel agency

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